Longtime commenter ThymeZone has written here about his own experiences with abuse
within the Catholic Church. I am passing it on because it is a courageous and thoughtful comment.
I’ve recently retired from my longtime career-job-occupation, so that gives you and idea of the age group I am in. And in the 50-plus years since the aforementioned mistreatment, I have spoken of those events with maybe half a dozen other people, including two shrinks and a few other people I was close to at one time or another. Let’s just say, I really don’t enjoy talking about much. And from adolescence until about age 40, a period of around 25 years or so, I pretty much blocked out the entire experience and all the events around that time in my life, so that the thing just was a dark blank space in my memory.
So, to the topic at hand, which I address here with some trepidation. Over all those years and some considerable therapy, I have come to only a very few conclusions. One of them is that I long ago forgave the person who mistreated me. I compared my own pain at being a part of his pain, with his, and decided that there was a good chance that he was more tortured by it than I was. Maybe, maybe not. I really have no way of knowing that for sure. But the point is, I don’t know, and I couldn’t see the point of carrying anger and resentment around with me for the rest of my life. Life is hard enough without adding to the inventory of painful things. I just let go of the anger, forgave the poor man, and over a not very long period of time my own shame and fear of the thing faded away too. A fairly effective pill, forgiveness, and for me, without much in the way of side effects.
I have no dog in the fight over what is happening the Catholic Church, but when it comes to the simple matter of how people treat other people, when it comes to the mysteries of sexuality, I refuse to be judgmental and carry grudges. At the risk of seeming odd and being unpopular in an age of triumphant sex police on every corner, I just don’t want to join in the condemnation of other people unless there is some really compelling reason to do so. The Church has its own work to do, and I have no advice for it on how to go about doing that work. I wish it well, I hope it turns out as well as possible for everyone under the circumstances. In my own experience, by far the most painful part of what happened to me was the hysterical reaction of adults around me to the events. If they had been okay with it all, I would have been much better off. A seven year old can’t understand much about sexual behavior, but he can sure understand fear and overreaction on the part of adult figures in his life. Whatever value there is in that message, I hope it helps somebody else. I’d have had no reason to feel horrified and ashamed of what happened to me if the adults around me hadn’t been so sure that horror and shame were what I ought to be feeling.
TZ, this was a beautifully-written post. Thank you for it.
That said, what the Church has done/is doing infuriates the hell out of me because they covered up for the priests and just moved them from parish to parish. I don’t think I’m being a sex police person by saying this shit needs to stop. To me, sexual activity between/among consenting adults–fine. Whatever. Have at it two wetsuits and a dildo and all.
When it’s between an adult and a kid (or many many many kids in this case), then all bets are off. I doubt any of these priests or their abettors will do any jail time, which, in my opinion, is a crime in and of itself.
P.S. I will say in my case, it was the secrecy that was the worst part of it. I would have welcomed some adult having some reaction over it.
TZ, you’re a brave man. I’m very proud of you for sharing that with us. It couldn’t have been easy.
And the adults around you should not have made you feel shame and horror. They should have let you know that what was done to you was not right, and that no adult should ever do that to you, but that it was in no way your fault. The adult who took advantage of a 7-year-old’s trusting nature? Yes. He should have been ashamed. What he did was wrong.
I’m so proud of you that you were able to forgive. Forgiveness does not imply approval, despite what many people might think. (And unfortunately, you probably will get some people on here who will think that your gracious forgiveness means that you condone what has happened to you and to so many other children.) Forgiveness is more about the self than about the person who wronged you. It means to let the hurt go, instead of holding on to it. And I’m glad that you were able to do that.
Lots of love and hugs to you, sweetie,
Your courage and stark, sane comments regarding your abuse was very inspirational to me. It echos, for me, the same result I came to at age nineteen with the help of a very kind, and thoughtful Catholic priest. My incidence of abuse did not come at the hands of the clergy but of a trusted family member. To that end I have become a very strong advocate for educating my children (and through both the church and the Boy Scouts) other children as well as to their rights, responsibilities and dangers in our world. Taking a non-judgemental, matter of fact, bodily function type of approach to teaching my own children about their sexuality and how to deal with it from a very young age (proper names etc) helped them deal with situations that could have become dangerous. You cannot enshroud your children in safety, you need to empower them to speak for themselves, think for themselves and question everything. The power of forgiveness is not in “letting the bad guy off the the hook” but in releasing the anger, shame, fault within ourselves to be open to the joy that surrounds us in life. Again thank you so very much for sharing your story. Teri
A moving testament to the power of forgiveness.
Keeping these things hidden is how people fumble the handling of it.
Good for you you’ve been able to reconcile your experience, find forgiveness and come out the other side. The fact that so many decent people have had to live their lives struggling with the damage inflicted by these corrupt and amoral poseurs who wield their power in the name of their vindictive petty god while picking the sheeples’ pockets and living in luxury infuriates me.
Everyone would be much better off if they cut out the middleman and took the one valuable lesson Jesus taught – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s it. Do that, and all the rest of it is unhappy horseshit.
I do want to repeat what I said in an earlier thread about forgiveness. I don’t believe it’s necessary to forgive in order to live a full life. I think that can become a trap in and of itself. I do think you need to let go of the anger, but forgiveness? Not so much. It’s not even balking at letting the person off the hook–it just feels like it’s one more burden on the survivor. I was raised Christian, so my view of forgiveness may be skewed. Once I realized my abuser couldn’t physically hurt me any more, I was able to let go of much of my fear of him. I’ve also let go of most of the anger. I don’t see a need to forgive my abuser or work on forgiving him. That focuses too much attention on him. I am at a point where focusing on him and/or the abuse is not what I need to be doing in my life.
ETA: Maybe I am misunderstanding other people’s definition of forgiveness. Can someone help me out?
I agree with El Cid below me. This is an institutional problem–one that wouldn’t be tolerated in a nonreligious institution (or the Boy Scouts, apparently).
I think this is absolutely brave personal work, a huge task that anyone would take on. Having known many people recovering from and moving on successfully from many, many forms of abuse, this always strikes me as both the most courageous and probably healthiest response.
However, I see no reason why the Catholic Church, as an organization, would be viewed any differently than any other institution or corporation that appears to institutionally or culturally encourage the hiring of child molesters and rapists and then works to deal with criminal matters entirely on an internal basis, and even then typically, over decades, prioritized the institutions’ needs and appeared to care quite little about their employees who were molesting and raping children.
An institution no more worthy of institutional existence than any other church or corporation systematically facilitated and protected child molesters and child rapists for decades and decades and decades, at the very least, given available evidence. And the facilitators, defenders, and silencers experience nothing but promotion within the Church structure.
This should be seen as an institutional, and not an individual problem, and my guess is that people would be viewing the situation quite differently if the institution were Exxon, or ACORN, or the Nicaraguan Sandinista or Venezuelan Hugo Chavez government, or the Democratic Party, or even the Salvation Army.
Then there would be calls to break the organization up, dissolve all institutional protection, or, in the case of governments to which the U.S. foreign policy establishment was opposed, blockading and overthrowing them.
DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal)
Painfully moving TZ. This had to be quite difficult to write and ponder as you were doing so. Your point about how everything looks from the point of view of a young child needed to be said and you said it very well.
I really can’t say much more about it without getting angry because I was one of the ‘lucky ones’ in that for all of my involvement with the catholic church from day one of my existence until the age of 14, I escaped what far too many others did not.
All I can say is that I am with the victims in this, not the church.
I’m not a big fan of crooked bishops or anything but it seems to me that if decades of misconduct is reason for eradicating an institution like the church, then it’s pretty hypocritical to give a blind eye to the U.S. govt, with its history of genocide, illegal wars and oppression, nevermind its acting in all matters as a servant of the very wealthy.
But whatever. It’s our bastard who’s running it now so I guess we should turn a blind eye, right?
Painfully moving indeed TZ. Thanks for sharing this with us, it must have not been easy.
I’m not sure I share his desire to forgive and to emphasize the potential for good in the institution, but I can admire it, and I am awed by his willingness to share his story with us.
Hats off to ThymeZone for his exemplary courage, character, and insight. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve gone a few rounds with him over issues around here, and seeing this side of him is particularly elucidating and inspiring to me. Bravo.
Good morning TZ.
Peace and sunshine today, you ordinary little farm animal you.
Right, if you can’t dissolve and replace the U.S. government, outside elections, which seem to happen quite often, every institution from nonprofits to charities to corporations should be allowed to conduct decades of facilitating and internally suppressing felonious activities, just as we would do for Exxon or the Red Cross or McDonalds or some particular military division or police force. The same would go for those institutions who by the collaboration of the leadership protect those who commit other felonies such as embezzlement or tax fraud or theft or graft or bribery or human smuggling or narco-trafficking.
As others have said, props to TZ for the candor, courage, and common sense. Sometimes damage doesn’t heal right; but sometimes it does.
Also: congratulations on your (recent?) retirement! (I guess I missed it if you had announced it earlier)
El Cid, not my point. I’m just saying we go all eliminationist about institutions we can maybe get the government to work over but ignore the biggest corrupt institution in our midst, particularly when our guy is in charge of the corruption. Just strikes me as a bit hypocritical.
El Cid, not my point. I’m just saying we go all eliminationist about institutions we can maybe get the government to work over but ignore the biggest corrupt institution in our midst, particularly when our guy is in charge of the corruption. Just strikes me as a bit hypocritical.
I’m with you, El Cid. I think if Florida and Indiana children’s services agencies have to release complete records detailing failures to protect, and they have, and did, any agency or non-profit that serves the wider community has to, too.
We’ve chosen to meld the religious and secular spheres, thru government funding of church-based groups, and that comes with a price, for religious. I’m not willing to accept Church-based standards for the release of information that is related to public safety. That’s the modern secular standard, and if the Church wants to operate in the public sphere, they should meet it.
someguy, there are many of us who do advocate prosecuting W. and his posse for war crimes. Doesn’t mean we can’t agitate for the Church to be responsible for their actions as well.
P.S. DougJ, I’m not sure TZ was actually talking about the Catholic Church with his post.
Just for reference, the U.S. government is not analogous to the Catholic Church. Not that I’m for protecting parts of the U.S. government from accountability — including criminal prosecution and dissolution or reorganization — for wrongs committed over long periods of time with institutional facilitation. But there are fairly special questions when one talks about ‘eliminating’ an entire nation-state.
The Catholic Church is no more a special and integral part of U.S. nation-state survival than GM or McDonalds or the Salvation Army, whom I’m sure would face broader institutional consequences than people would be willing to consider for the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church merits no more institutional and hierarchical preservation than any other corporation or nonprofit. Not a bit.
On our topic
Nice little essay by the Rabbi – but quite interesting comments. Worth a read.
El Cid, once again, in your post following mine, you said what I wanted to say, but so much better (I deleted my apples and oranges comment before posting). That’s one reason you’re my FH#3.
Why did we know waterboarding is so much worse than ignoring a riptide flag and almost drowning?
Because it is always worse when it is someone doing this to us.
That is what ruins our inner defenses, shakes our trust and our ability to love.
This is what any person, or group of persons, must grapple with when they have hurt someone. Admitting the hurt is the first step; one the Catholic Church has yet to do. Until that happens, they will not change.
One of the worst parts of this is the way they pressure victims and loved ones: “Don’t resolve this,” they say, “because you might hurt the Church.”
I say, “You are the reason the Church is supposed to exist. You are the important part.”
Not to be a cynical pain in the ass, but they’ve got their own problems. 26 indictments and 8 convictions in the Brooklyn area alone, among the ultra-Orthodox.
Two points (and as I say that, I can see not unexpectedly the third, the fourth, the zillionth. . .
TZ is and should be probably an apt reminder that how individual cases are handled is important and that people, let alone children, vary about what they pick up as important. TZ seems to have been most impacted by the reaction of adults “fixing” things. I won’t dispute that whatsoever. There’s a reason that The cure can be worse than the disease is practically an adage. All the same, while honoring that, let’s not forget that a lot of pain and suffering led to societal establishment of the so-called “triumphant sex police” reaction. I don’t think people just, out of the blue, decided to stop ignoring sexual abuse in a variety of settings on a sudden whim because well, yee-haw, it’s the 60s. There’s a lot of human pain underlying the societal reaction that has evolved.
I don’t care what Catholics believe now or in the hereafter; go wild. I do care vehemently about their Church obeying the law, and what’s more, in a frenzied burst of optimism, I’d like the Church to obey the civic law. The whole pleading benefit of clergy thing has been fought before so I guess it’s just our time to have it out again. But, in a time where doctors and pharmacists are beginning to not treat people that they disagree with and people are refusing to fill out the bloody census or pay their taxes because they don’t feel like it and let’s not even venture near the benighted bankers and hedge-fund elite (or the RNC expense accounts) … in short, this I’ll follow the law when convenient to myself meme is getting a little too prevalent in this society. And it is rusty pitchfork inspiring to get it from the self-proclaimed moral majorities / authorities.
So the inevitable third point. I don’t care what Catholics think and I’ve no desire the see their church dissolved into a little puddle of contrite tears or rubble. I do wish that laity would begin to acknowledge that they’ve got some skin in the game and aren’t abject little floaty plankton drifting wherever they’re told to on all subjects. They keep telling me that they are the Church so don’t bad-mouth it but when any sort of action verb of contrition is required they point off toward the holy see. And this is directly analogous to what’s been going on in politics in the US as far as I’m concerned, with institutionalized torture (in my case) as the motivating factor. That betrayed me, that was a betrayal of my country’s ideals as I understood them so what’s the action verb of repentance open to me. The fact that I’m trying to work toward making this country a better country doesn’t mean I wish it abolished. (and I say this in full confession that I could still do and should do more about this silly nation. I am wildly far from perfect.)
Yeah, where do you get off criticizing something while other things that are deserving of criticism remain extant? Hypocrites.
And they say liberals have a hard time focusing.
I’m a little humbled. I came within an inch of not posting the thing, thinking that maybe I didn’t want to burden all of you with the thing, you’d think I was being a sap …. all these years of playing the curmudgeon have made me expect opposition, blah blah blah.
Anyway, I appreciate all the thoughtful comments and feedback.
I need to clear up a couple of things. One, my experience was with the YMCA, not the Catholic Church. I was raised by a Catholic grandmother but I myself was shunted off to Episcopal church as a kid, for some reason. I apologize if my post gave the impression that I was talking about a Catholic Church experience. The person who took advantage of us boys was an adult YMCA staff member and counselor.
Another item I need to mention, I am not trying to sell anyone on the idea of forgiveness. Experiences of this type are personal and everyone who is in such a situation has to find his and her own way to resolution. I basically chose forgiveness mainly because it worked for me. Purely a practical choice. It was the only path that opened the doors to being free of the thing, for me. I wouldn’t want to push that approach on anyone else, I am just saying that it was the best path for me personally.
I understand this man’s point and I am VERY glad he has recovered and is doing so well; however, he is also very, very wrong in general. First, he does have a dog in this fight – sexual abuse that he suffered was a crime and the church has made sure that people like him and other victims are often not so lucky.
Next, the public back then never much cared about child abuse – this was (in my opinion) directly related to the lack of reporting. This allowed this crime to appear both rare and the cause of little harm.
Also, this also forced many victims to remain hidden and unable or unwilling to deal with their terrible pain. As a result, their pain and suffering was ignored and these people often turned their pain inward.
Sexual abuse kills – I know because my brother was abused by a neighbor (I didn’t realize until a few years ago that this occurred) and from twelve on, he suffered and resorted to drugs (alcohol and illegal ones) to deal with his pain. He tried for the last twenty years to get off these drugs but could never come to grips with his abuse nor the need for the drugs. He died yesterday from liver failure and was only in his early fifties.
Sexual abuse kills and manes in many ways – just ask the numerous women in the sex industry. This is a topic that needs public disclosure so that the vast number of victims (mostly done by family members or friends) both know that they are not alone and know that this abuse is terribly harmful and needs to be treated.
This man was lucky and I am glad for him but so many kids (and now adults) are not so lucky and have been destroyed emotionally and seek drugs to cover their pain.
I hate to break your bubble, but (and I’m sure TZ is about to clarify because I pointed it out to him) since I am already aware of this story (granted, I had forgotten which group he belonged to as well and somehow had equated it with the Boy Scouts in my mind and I was incorrect too – he corrected me this morning as to which organization it was as well), can you please show me where you got the idea that he received this abuse in the Catholic church?
I am not defending the Catholic church, quite honestly, I am vehemently opposed to it because of it’s history of removing the ability to read their silly book by ordinary men and the inquisitions and witch hunts and babies thrown on fires because their mothers were condemned… a LOT for them to feel guilty for even before this horrid child molestation scandal was even imaginable… the church needs to be put to death, seriously. That said, equating what TZ said with “the church did it to me” is a large misnomer and you really need to learn to read if you are to keep trying to inform others here of what is actually happening in our world and/or blogosphere.
The Catholic church isn’t the only group that has done this horrible thing. The Boy Scouts have already faced scandal because of the same specific acts, and while I will not personally reveal the organization that TZ was involved in, there are others.
The only thing that I can say is worse about the church is that they have this silly idea that “The Gates of Hell will not prevail against [the church] (Matthew 16:18) and, apparently, I must be crazy because, to my mind, it already has.
I’m not angry, just asking you to pay more attention.
Forgiveness is not about saying everything is now gone or you want to go hug those who hurt you…though some people are able to find that within them. It’s about you much more than the person who hurt you. Its about saying “This person did shitty things to me. They suck as a human being. What happened ripped a part of my life away I can’t have back. I don’t choose to wish them well. However, I choose to let this go within MYSELF. I choose to not let it have that power over me. And though the abuse marked me, I am the person I am today because of it, and I learned empathy for others like me, and compassion. So, I do not forget, I do not in any way condone what they did to me. But the universe is what it is, and I forgive.”
I’ve been through this, as many of us have. I could either let it mark me for life, or I could forgive and move forward with the lessons, as well as use it to work with others who hurt. I forgave, and became a chaplain.
Thank you for sharing TZ, a hard thing to read but I’m glad that you have found a way to work it through. It would be so easy to remain furious at an adult who made a conscious decision to do that to you. You have chosen a difficult but ultimately much healthier path.
TZ, thank you for your story. And I hope that your demons are well and truly buried.
Remember this, to you and everyone else similarly raped, it was never your fault. It’s never ever the victim’s fault. It wasn’t something they did, something they caused, something they could have gotten out of with a bigger brain or better fists.
What comes with it, the baggage, the ghosts, the hauntings, that’s all on them. How you get to healthy, how you leave that baggage back at the door with the victimizer, that’s on everyone to figure out for themselves, but never should the blame fall on themselves. No matter what anyone else says.
May your remaining days be long and free from the ghosts of the past.
But this is the difference. The Orthodox Jews have the indictments and convictions. There isn’t an institutional policy of covering it up, like the RCC has.
The same is true for mainline Protestants (Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.). We perform psychological examinations, do background and criminal checks and have accountability processes in place but still have clergy and laity who molest. In contrast, they aren’t tolerated and passed on to other parishes to do the same thing over and over again. They are turned over to the authorities and prosecuted.
The unique problem with the RCC is that they are the only institutional religious body that has a celibacy requirement for clergy. That gives them a much smaller pool of potential applicants and makes them more reluctant to let the bad apples go.
ThymeZone, in his powerful and beautiful statement, gives life to the truism that forgiveness is about the one who does it; it is a gift of freedom to the person who forgives, just as prayer is a benefit to the person who prays.
The other side of that is that hatred is a burden, not to the person who is hated, but to the person who hates.
Forgiveness is a laying down of that burden. How happy for ThymeZone that he has been blessed with the ability to do that.
That is kick ass TZ
I love you in all of your personas
I agree, although there was certainly a reluctance to report by parents of the children, but that’s true in a lot of abuse cases.
I am actually less concerned with the religious aspects ( I’m not religious, and I have absolutely no interest in invalidating one or another religion) than I am concerned with what I know to be true about religious organizations activities in the wider secular society.
They’re very involved in the delivery of social services where I live. Its Catholics and Lutherans, primarily. I represent juveniles, and that work intersects with social service agencies.
I’m not sure Americans are aware to what extent we have essentially farmed out public social services to religious organizations. I cannot send a juvenile client to addiction treatment where I live without going through Catholic Charities, unless he or she is willing to drive 60 miles. It’s a rural area.
I assume the civil rules apply to that org ( they are lay people) , as to protecting children, but I am not sure.
I was more comfortable when the lines were less blurry.
I’ll try again, with a narrower question. I know from my work that religious of all stripes deliver social services to the broader public. They are counselors, professionals, etc, I know from my work that they operate within a sort of quasi-public role (court-ordered, etc). It makes sense, and I of course welcome that. They’re in a “helping” profession, and it makes sense that they would be drawn to that work, with the wider public.
So which set of rules apply? The civil rules apply to the laypeople, but is that true of the religious in those orgs?
I think its a fair question because one of the (accused) priests was sent to work in a juvenile detention facility. One of the boys (now a man) has come forth with an allegation.
That’s an arm of the state. I have skin in that game.
Thank you TZ for sharing that with all of us.
Reading what you wrote was a humbling experience.
Best wishes, and I hope you enjoy your brand new retirement very much. Congratulations! May you have many, many happy and satisfying years yelling at kids to get off your #*(!& lawn.
I’m so sorry to hear about your brother DB. Please accept my condolences.
Forgiveness is one thing but allowing abuse to continue is something else entirely. When I was in middle school I was bullied. It was a brief, four month, chapter in my life. Later my own daughter was bullied in middle school. Much worse. To the point that she made a half-hearted suicide attempt. A cry for help.
I can forgive the kids that bullied me. I can even laugh about when they threw the dissected frogs at me. I cannot forgive the people who bullied my daughter. I just can’t. If I saw them now, nearly ten years later, I would still like to slap them. I feel the same way about the clergy abuse. It was not just the pedophiles! If it were not for people like the pope and the bishops there would not be nearly so many victims. Because these evil men allowed the pedophiles to have access to more victims there are probably tens of thousands of adults and children in this world struggling to survive.
And I know of what I speak. I was also sexually abused as a child. I can honestly say that my sincere wish is not that they be punished but rehabilitated so that they never do this again. The prison system we have now only seems to make people worse and I would rather that not happen. They were bad enough. Is that forgiveness? I do not know. I can only say that at the age of 44 I have had thoughts of suicide since before the age of ten. I can only say that I have struggled my entire life with this. That the pope and the bishops, that, anyone, would facilitate this happening to thousands upon thousands of innocent children, and then punished the children for seeking protection, is unforgivable. If the Gods can forgive them then they truly are Gods.
About forgiveness being a burden: I think it’s an option that can remove a burden. It’s really hard for me to describe in any concise way, so I will cop out and recommend the book “Forgiveness”, by Robin Casarjian.
I am completely in agreement with your third point, re: floaty plankton.
tz [and Doug]: Thanks for the post. I’ve applied to be a foster parent and the chances, I’ve been told, in my neck of the woods, of getting a kid who has been sexually abused are between 70-95 percent. I don’t understand why they don’t just say 82 percent, but anyway, that’s effing high. I just finished my nine weeks of training and I still don’t know anything about dealing with that in particular, apart from some instruction we got about side-hugs, I kid you not. And while I don’t expect to make it all better, I certainly don’t want to be one of the grownups who makes it worse.
I’m not asking anyone to talk about something [s]he doesn’t want to talk about, but I’d like anyone out there who knows of a book they think I should read, to tell me what that book is.
There are quite a few pearls of wisdom, and plenty of them don’t have anything to do with Catholicsm in that lovely post, TZ.
Thank you for your personal bravery in making this statement.
I completely agree with your point that hysterical, sex-phobic, over the top, freak out adults are part of the problem.
The abusers and those who covered it up should have been and should be dealt with swiftly and firmly, without a doubt.
But the shrieking of many of the “adults” seems to me to portray more a horror of sex of any kind than outrage that trust and boundaries were betrayed and covered up.
Sex abuse and rape should be viewed as part of a long list of serious violations of other persons which need to be punished, not as unspeakable, vile horrors barely to be mentioned. To do otherwise is to compound the original abuse many times over.
There is a conspicuous gulf between “okay with it all” and “horror and shame.” There is a curious false dichotomy going on here.
Margarita: Yeah, it’s not like it has to be one or the other, but I think that both of them, even though at opposite ends of the spectrum, are reactions based in fear. Either ignoring it, which is what happened to asiangrrlMN, or shrieking like it’s the apocalypse, in tz’s case, they both seem to come from an inability to deal with it in an open-eyed, face-the-facts kind of way. It’s a drag, but not surprising, that the victims have to do this years later, on their own, if they’re lucky. [email protected] grownups. They’re not as smart and with-it as you think, come to find. Again and again and again.
“I do wish that laity would begin to acknowledge that they’ve got some skin in the game and aren’t abject little floaty plankton drifting wherever they’re told to on all subjects. They keep telling me that they are the Church so don’t bad-mouth it but when any sort of action verb of contrition is required they point off toward the holy see.”
Very well said. We Catholic lay people DO need to break out of the grip of awe and unquestioning obedience to the clergy.
Acknowledging leadership in matters of theology is one thing; lazily allowing the clergy to have a free hand to do whatever in secret is the perfect breeding ground for corruption.
I also was a Scoutmaster for many years; The Scouts had their own scandals a while back, but it is interesting how they handled it; After a period of Church-like fumbling, they came out with a clear powerful set of rules, all centered around openness and transparency and accountability. For instance, in the Scouts, there is no such thing as secrecy, no hiding behind the mantle of authority.
I think the Church could use a bit of that humble pie, especially for the ones who proclaim themselves the “servants”.
I’m in awe of the people brave enough to share their stories in this post. What happened to you should not have happened.
I’m sorry, but there most certainly is. There’s less ability to get away with it because Orthodox Judaism (and Judaism in general) is not a monolithic, fabulously wealthy, world-spanning hierarchy. But all the tactics you’re seeing in the Church are present here as well: abusive histories deliberately concealed, abusers moving from place to place, victims pressured and even threatened to keep silent to prevent scandal, and ostracized and revictimized if they speak up despite that.
And there are plenty of abusers who pull a “Cardinal Law”, fleeing to Israel to avoid prosecution – where extradition is often difficult and time-consuming (for valid reasons, however infuriating).
There’s a blog called Failed Messiah, http://www.failedmessiah.org/, that does pretty good coverage of these issues. (The blog name comes from its initial focus on the Lubavitchers who proclaimed their last Rebbe the Messian when he died back in 1994.)
TZ, that was a powerful, insightful post. Thank you for writing it.
There’s a curious gap between asserting this is all some mean petty gossip directed at the Pope who is suffering as much as the persecuted Jesus and the Jews during the Holocaust and the sheer international scope of the problem I’ll grant you that. “here” is a sorta vague term.
In order to be forgiven for sins, one must first ask for forgiveness. Now, maybe I just haven’t been listening well enough, but I have yet to hear the Roman Catholic Church, through the pope, ask to be forgiven for its sins. Nor have I heard a promise that this sort of thing will be dealt with differently in the future. TZ, I’m glad you have the strength of character to put this behind you and let go of the anger, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing as forgiveness. At least forgiveness as defined by most religions.
I think my problem is with the term forgiveness itself. I looked up the word forgive, and one of its basic meanings is to let go of the anger, which I’m actually fine with. It’s just the amorphous nature of the word as it’s used that I don’t like.
I think, too, it’s the active nature of forgiveness that bothers me. As I said, I have let go of most of the anger at my abuser, which I guess means I have forgiven him, but I don’t want to use that word. I had no thought in letting go of the anger. I didn’t think as Felonious Wench said to let go of the anger or anything like that. As I worked on other issues, I let go of the anger organically. It was the byproduct, as it were, not the focus.
And, I have to clarify that when I said forgiveness can be a burden, I meant if it’s the expected end goal, I could have easily beat myself up over not forgiving my abuser many many many times. To me, the important thing is to heal from the abuse. Focusing on forgiving my abuser, quite frankly, is energy in the wrong direction. I blogged about it earlier this morning before my nap because the word forgive really bothers me. And, in the previous thread, Cereberus expresses eloquently some of my own discomfort with the emphasis on forgiving the abuser (comments #60 & #68).
Thank you for sharing your story, TZ. I can relate to it. I’ve been sexually abused and found forgiveness to be the path for me and for the same reasons. I did not want to go through life carrying around all of that stuff. I, too, do not push the idea of forgiveness off on people. But, for me, it definitely works.
Though I can understand AsianGrrl’s confusion on the topic of forgiveness. A lot of Christian’s do make it seem like a burden. But then I came to a different understanding of forgiveness and I found out I’ve done it already.
What was done to me was wrong, but like you, TZ, I found the reaction of the adults around me not helpful. It got to the point where I just wouldn’t talk about it because I didn’t want to deal with the drama. It wasn’t until I my late 20’s that I found a few friends that I could talk to and they would understand where I was coming from, especially around one incident. I share a lot of the thoughts you have about the person who molested you.
Sending positive energy your way-
Genine, I think I am closer to your definition of forgiveness, then.
Quick edit: My abuse wasn’t institutional. It was familial. Just wanted to make sure there was no confusion there.
Oh! And I wanted to add that TZ’s post really helps me feel like less of a freak. You may be surprised by how many negative reactions I would get when I used to mention the same sentiments. That was another reason why I never talked about it.
AsianGrrl, mine was familial as well and a date I was on years later.
Expecting the Pope to ask forgiveness is a bit confusing. The Pope doesn’t expect that he has to be the one to be forgiven anything, he is the vicarious representative of God (Christ) on Earth and as such, he is infallible, perfect, and if anyone is to be doing any forgiving, it’s him!
The above is just to show you the attitude of the hierarchy within the Catholic church and why you haven’t and will never hear anyone from the authority of the church ask for forgiveness.
As for your thoughts on forgiveness, TZ and I had a conversation a few months ago about how I finally learned to let go of my deeply embedded anger of growing up controlled by a severely abusive and alcoholic mother who I was never able to forgive when she was alive. I was finally able to let go of the anger after her death (almost immediately after her death, in fact) and while I didn’t really call it forgiveness, I called it “letting go” and “moving past” and what I was doing was “turning away from the anger”. I came to understand that the past was the past and couldn’t be changed and there was no reason that I should carry the pain anymore. I forgave her the way TZ forgave his abuser. One thing I had to forgive was the caring mother that I was always hoping she would become and never did. I had deeply hoped for years that my mother could become that person and I had to accept both that my mother never did become a caring mother, and that I would never have one of those.
Neither TZ nor I said “it’s okay that they did that”. No, that’s not it at all. What we did was to say “I’m not going to allow this to hold power and effect me and my life anymore”.
TZ doesn’t realize that he’s already done this process once and he can do it again* (which was the reason why were were discussing it in the first place).
*Note to TZ: take note of this point I marked, please – I’m so proud of you!
Genine, I think we are all walking wounded in one way or another (some of us in various ways).
I was sexually abused, I was emotionally and physically abused, I was ridiculed for a good number of years by kids in school because of my name – you name it, I’ve probably been through it. I learned empathy despite having others around who were rotten, self-centered and neglectful.
The fact that we don’t talk about it and usually become inwardly embarrassed by these events is probably the reason why we all think everyone else is more normal than we are. We go around telling ourselves that if others knew the truth, they’d think we were freaks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting it out in the open is HEALTHY! Just deciding who to reveal that information to should be a decision that one must handle delicately, not putting the power to ridicule or revise history back into the hands of one who could and/or might do so.
We’re ALL dealing with some sort of crazy shit, and many of us are dealing with it on several fronts. Nobody gets out of this world without being touched by crazy shit somehow or another. That’s life.
I think I make a distinction in my mind between forgiving the individual offender — that is between them and their victims and they have to accept whatever the victims determine is fair at that level — and forgiving the institution and the institution’s officials.
I cannot forgive the Church’s handling of the situation. If they had (1) either isolated the priest immediately for the rest of his life (god knows they must still own some monasteries on top of mountains somewhere) or turned them over for secular prosecution AND (2) responded properly to the victims, I would be satisfied.
There were certainly people advocating that approach within the church. Someone here posted a link in one of the previous threads to the cache of documents at the NYT, especially letters from the head of the Order of the Paraclete, where he is begging his superiors to throw them out or put them away– back in 1957. Instead, they chose to play this shell game that allowed the abusers to continue in their merry way. That’s what I can’t forgive.
I hear you, Little Dreamer. I mean I don’t think I’m a freak for what happened to me. It’s just that some treat me like a freak because I choose to forgive. So, I am just careful about where I express my thoughts on certain subjects.
And my mother was a lot like yours except without the alcohol. I mean now I understand she has psychological issues, but as a kid, that was not easy to process. And a lot of things you expressed I felt as well.
I’m sorry for your loss. Be at peace.
My condolences to you and yours.
My display will not let me reply directly to any post
Little Dreamer & Dannie22 & Genine:
Thank you very much; that helps (I really have no one I can really talk to about this; let strangely, I don’t mind saying it here. I know that people here are all on the same side even if we disagree on points.)
It is hard, especially since I didn’t know for so many years (only the last two did I put it together,but that was far too late to help him; damn – all the signs were there but I didn’t understand over the years. Worse, I knew the person but just (refused?) failed to see the signs for what they were and I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I do feel that I let my brother down for not seeing in time.
Worse, I only discoveredall this after I became seriously ill and had to fight for my life the last two years (I think I’m over the worse and look forward to better health.)
That is life and many people have far worse and I’m very glad this person can forgive his abuser and has healed so well.
In time, I hope, I can forgive myself for the failures of seeing the truth. For me, that is a terrible crime in of itself – I always blamed his own failure to deal with drugs and followed the ‘hard love’ idea (I know that is best for most cases) – still, I was so wrong in so many ways and should have done more by seeing the truth.
Don’t blame yourself for not knowing. You were a child yourself when this happened. You could not have possibly known what happened to your brother.
Be at peace. Take of yourself and your health. Remember good times between your brother and you.
when it comes to the simple matter of how people treat other people, when it comes to the mysteries of sexuality, I refuse to be judgmental and carry grudges.
I am sitting here with my jaw on the floor. Am I completely misreading the comment (I read the whole thing). The person seems to be saying that pedophelia is a “mystery” and to each his own. He’s not going to judge a child abuser because…sexuality is a mystery.
I am horrified. Truly and deeply horrified.
I was also a victim of abuse, not by clergy but a family member and a family “friend.” Believe me, people in the family weren’t hysterical or outraged. They tried to persuade me to feel sympathy for both men who abused me, exactly what the commenter appears to be saying.
I recommend reading Alice Miller, a psychologist who points out the ways children do anything to forgive the abuse of adults they look up to; and in the process sacrifice themselves.
I would just like to add, to any adults reading who were victims in childhood. You are allowed to be angry, you are allowed to not forgive. Most importantly, you are allowed to put yourself first.
If you are unable to forgive, that’s OK. It is possible to get on with life, to lead a full and happy life, without forgiving. If you want to forgive, if you are able to, fine. But don’t let someone pressure you to think you are somehow defective if you don’t or can’t.
No one has the right to forgive the crimes a person commits against another individual. Only victims can forgive.
My heart, my head, my thoughts, all of my support goes to victims, not perpetrators. Whatever they decide to do is fine with me.
My sympathy on your loss.
I think that grief [with its partner, guilt] says good things about the one who has gone on before. You are feeling this pain now because you loved [and still love] your brother. You honor him with that pain.
Take care of yourself, Sweetie.
Lesley, I was doing fine with my resolution to stay out of the thread, but I think your comment deserves a response.
My remark about the mysteries of sexuality are general in nature and not specific to the topic of the current threads. It’s a theme I have talked about extensively here over the years, and I have a tendency to write posts as if the reader has been reading my remarks all along and knows where I am coming from. It’s a lazy habit.
WRT to pedophilia, I do see it as a mystery, and a misunderstood one. For one thing, it’s a preference, not a behavior. Child abuse is a behavior, and my post was about abuse. Pedophilia is a preference, but if it does not result in child abuse, then it isn’t really my business as far as I am concerned. And there are many forms of child abuse that have nothing to do with pedophilia. So my attitude towards that is based on that set of assumptions. The mystery for me is why anyone would have that preference. I myself find the idea of any kind of sexual contact with a child to be repulsive, so I can’t really relate to the thing or understand its basis. But my real point was that I don’t have any particular judgmental attitude toward pedophilia or any other sexual preference by itself. I am only judgmental towards behavior, and as I said, pedophilia is not behavior. Child abuse is behavior, trading in child porn is behavior, taking a job as a youth counselor at the YMCA to be around kids for sexual stimulation is behavior. I give no quarter to any of those behaviors, and if laws are broken by behavior, I have no problem with enforcing the laws.
As for your latter remark, I made no statements about feeling sympathy for an abuser. I simply stated that I was not going to waste my energy on projecting my pain or anger onto that person and making assumptions about him which had no basis in evidence, in my situation. I think I also made it clear that whatever thoughts or feelings one might have about such a thing are entirely personal, and I advocate nothing for anyone else. I don’t assert that my views or approach are of any value to anyone else, and I don’t have a lot of patience for others asserting that their views or approach are appropriate for me. I don’t criticize theirs and I am not moved to defend mine. My message was really more along the lines of “Don’t let other people maneuver you into doing what they think you should do in these situations. It’s your experience, not theirs.” I might not have made that clear enough, hopefully this clears it up.
My forgiveness decision was made at about the age of 45, not when I was a child. Between 7 and 45, I went through a lot of changes over those events, everything from A to Z. Also, my little post is not a biography. Without getting too far off topic, let me put it this way: Sexual abuse was not the worst thing that happened to me during those years, by a long shot. My only point in mentioning that is that there are circumstances in which it’s possible to misjudge just how important certain events actually are, especially when they happen to other people, since we can’t be in their shoes.
DB, you could not have known as a child. My deepest condolences to you on the loss of your brother. It’s a crying shame.
Genine, mine was familial, and then a horrible relationship when I was in my early twenties.
Thank you to everyone who shared his/her experience in this thread. A white light to surround us all.
Pedophilia is a preference, but if it does not result in child abuse, then it isn’t really my business as far as I am concerned.
I can’t fathom this at all. Pedophilia is inherently abusive, its consequences, even as fantasy, are abusive.
How many (mostly) men are out there buying or downloading photos made by men in direct contact with children, exploiting them for the market.
A pedophile who is seriously engaged in fantasy will drift toward communities that support him/her. Even if one is “merely” fantasizing, there are people who will encourage them to go beyond it.
Pedophiles who have not had direct contact with a child, but say masturbate to a photograph of a child are violating that child. Most distributed/sold photographs are made by abusers who use children. No pedophile merely using pictures can ever claim he has not hurt a child or that a child hasn’t been hurt to satisfy his needs.
But even if they find some random photograph and exploit that for their own pleasure, it’s sickening.
I am sympathetic with what you’ve been through as a child, but you are rationalizing using the exact same arguments pedophiles use. Indeed, you are dangerously leaning toward a certain degree of permission and acceptance. There can never be permission for this EVER.
To be a victim and to have concluded that what “harmless” pedophiles do is none of your business raises red flags for me.
Pedophilia cannot be equated with consensual adult sexual acts and can never be sanctioned. It’s wrong because it destroys other people. Children aren’t destroyed because the protective people around them “overreact” as you suggested. I knew instinctively what was happening to me was terrible. I didn’t want it to be happening. It hurt and terrified and shamed me. And to this day I loathe the people that imposed themselves and their dirty secret way of life on me. It was liberating to be able to say so.
I am sorry but you are dead wrong on this. Much like the Anchoress.
Sorry, Lesley, but we will have to agree to disagree.
Only behavior can be sanctioned. Attitudes and preferences cannot. Pedophilia is not behavior unless it includes behavior, which makes the word itself ambiguous and less than useful here.
When pedophilia leads to behavior, then that is actionable.
this is pretty much a priori, as I see it. The language is imprecise and needs considerable disambiguation, obviously, since the word is used indiscriminately to refer both to the disorder and its impulses, and the potential behaviors that may arise from those. But a desire is not actionable and cannot be sanctioned, while a behavior is actionable and can be sanctioned. Just because the language is imprecise doesn’t mean that we have to be.
A pedophile who does not act on his impulses might be likened to an alcoholic who does not drink. We don’t test drivers for the alcoholism gene, we test them for blood alcohol level, which results from the behavior of drinking. An alcoholic who does not drink is not an impaired driver because he is an alcoholic, he is only impaired if he drinks.
I don’t really see how anyone who understands the terms can conclude otherwise, but years of being around the internet have taught me that people are going to think and say pretty much anything, whether it makes sense or not.
I am not sure exactly what point you are trying to make with respect to my post. If you are suggesting that I somehow erred by deciding to forgive the person who abused me, then I thank you for your suggestion, but I don’t find it useful. If you are suggesting something else, then I really don’t understand your motive and don’t care to continue discussing the matter unless you have something new to say. Whether I forgive somebody or not is about me, not about the subject of the forgiveness and is absolutely not about you in any way, shape or form. I have no contact with that person, don’t know his name or whereabouts. Further, I have already stated that I have no interest in motivating anyone else to take my path. If my abuser harms someone else, then that person has every right to take whatever action he or she feels is warranted. I was seven when the thing happened, and had no control over the circumstances whatever. Thirty eight years later I decided to forgive the man and move on. How this motivates you to criticize my decision is beyond me. That is a rhetorical statement, no answer is requested. I made a personal choice that affects nobody but me, and I don’t open it to your — or anyone else’s — criticism. It was my choice to make, and I made it, and that’s it. You are free to choose as you wish.
I think we just have to leave it at that. Thanks for your feedback.
TZ, thanks for this post. It shows a truly impressive amount of successful emotional work.
In order to volunteer at the school, we had to take child abuse prevention training. One statistic that they gave us is that 1 out of every 6 girls has been sexually molested or abused by the time she turns 18; I believe the statistic for boys is 1 out of 15, but I could be remembering it wrong.
I believe that the Catholic Church needs to apologize for the coverups, and in an unambiguous way. Currently the attitude seems to be “I didn’t leave any fingerprints”.
As I understand Catholicism (I am not Roman Catholic) the pope is considered infallible in matters of faith and doctrine. He is not infallible in his administrative or other temporal roles. Therefore a plea for forgiveness on behalf of the church is entirely possible. Like you, however, I won’t be holding my breath.